Lexis Nexis - Case Brief

Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Law School Case Brief

Muskrat v. United States - 219 U.S. 346, 31 S. Ct. 250, 55 L. Ed. 246, 1911 U.S. LEXIS 1641

Rule:

Neither the legislative nor the executive branches can constitutionally assign to the judicial any duties but such as are properly judicial, and to be performed in a judicial manner. The exercise of the judicial power is limited to "cases" and "controversies." Beyond this it does not extend, and unless it is asserted in a case or controversy within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, the power to exercise it is nowhere conferred. 

Facts:

In 1902, Congress passed an Act which allocated land to Cherokee Indians, including David Muskrat and Henry ***. In 1904 and 1906, Congress passed acts that limited what Indians could do with the land. Some Cherokees already on the land contended that this act had the potential to unconstitutionally deprive them of their property. Congress passed an act in 1907 granting federal courts the jurisdiction to hear cases from Indians contesting the constitutionality of the 1904 and 1906 acts. Muskrat and *** filed lawsuits under this act. The appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. 

Issue:

Can Congress authorize matters for judicial review that are not "cases" or "controversies"?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court ruled that Congress could not create jurisdiction for judicial review of a specific matter by way of legislation. "The right to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional could only be exercised when a proper case between opposing parties was submitted for judicial determination." The Constitution granted the judiciary the power to decide "cases" and "controversies," but did not grant a "general veto power...upon the legislation of Congress."

Access the full text case
Be Sure You're Prepared for Class